We have been fascinated with the grace, power, and ability of horses for many centuries, often harnessing their skills and talents for either the welfare of our civilisation or for entertainment. Nowadays, the utility aspect of horses is quite minimal, as most breeds are used for different equestrian events and activities such as horse racing. Therefore, although there are countless different breeds of horses in the world, only a very few are used for sports and other horse-related shows and events.
Sport horses have many different definitions that change according to the country, breed, or the type of usage. In general, sport horses are used for equestrian events such as show jumping, dressage, eventing, and combined driving, while in countries such as the US, sport horses are used in competitions such as the show hunter and the hunt seat. In the UK, horses used for show hunter events are termed as a show horse, but in other parts of the world, sport horses are also used for horse racing.
The general concept of breeding sport horses arises from the need to create the perfect specimen through cross-breeding and careful training. Therefore, the main priority for such breeds is to have the best temperament to deal with the extensive training and work seamlessly with the rider, have a good muscular composition with great form, and an incredible jumping ability that utilises the entire body for maximum speed and agility. Although most breeders try to develop the best qualities in their horses, here are some of the best sport horse breeds that are available in the market today.
The Irish Sport Horse
The Irish Sport Horse, also known as the Irish Hunter, is an offspring between the highly popular Irish Draught Horse and a thoroughbred or a warmblood. The Irish Draught Horses are extremely capable and sensible animals, as they are known to be honest workhorses that satisfied the varying needs of Irish farmers in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Irish Draught Horses are relatively smaller animals that had a tremendous jumping capability for hunting purposes, the sheer strength to haul carts, and the emotional intelligence and stamina to work the farms during the week. However, when these intelligent and tough steeds were crossbred with the thoroughbreds and warmbloods from Europe, it resulted in a highly sophisticated animal that displayed several qualities such as strength, endurance, speed, athleticism, and temperament; each an important criteria that have led to the creation of one of the best sport horse breeds in the world.
The Hanoverian Horse
The Hanoverian is a warmblood horse breed that enjoys a close battle with the Irish Sport Hunter for supremacy in equestrian events held all over the world. The Hanoverian breed is a multiple time gold winner in Olympic equestrian events, making it a highly successful sport horse breed in the sports world. The breed is highly renowned for its temperament, strength, and athleticism, which is why the horse enjoys a great deal of popularity in events such as dressage, show jumping, show hunting, and eventing.
The Hanoverian breed of horses are supposed to have originated in Germany and is considered to be a pure breed with qualities that have been passed on from generations of the same bloodline. However, there are health concerns of breeding the same warmblood without bringing in any genetic variations.
The Selle Francais
The Selle Francais is another popular sport horse breed that originated in France during the 1950s. The horse breed has achieved considerable success in show jumping, but these steeds have also enjoyed success in many eventing and dressage events throughout the world. Their athletic abilities, agility, and natural compliance are a few of the very important traits that make them an excellent sport horse that can be trained and ridden by humans. Riders have achieved numerous medals at the Olympics, along with wins at various equestrian events, which puts Selle Francais in the league of other mainstream breeds such as the Irish Hunter and the Hanoverian.
The Danish Warmblood
The Danish Warmblood is a relatively modern breed in the sport horse category, with its lineage traced back to Danish mares and European warmbloods. The studbook for the Danish Warmblood breed was established in Demark in the mid-20th century, which means that the category does not enjoy as much popularity or the traditional lineage as its peers in countries such as the US. Regardless, these horses are some of the best breeds in the sports category and are slowly gaining popularity in different parts of the world. The Danish Warmblood is one of the most compliant horses in the world, which makes it the perfect breed for dressage and show jumping.
The Thoroughbred breeds are native to England and are by far the most famous steeds used for racing events. The breed is known to exert maximum effort into their races, which can often backfire in the form of accidents and lung ruptures. However, it is the species’ innate desire to exceed its own performance has won the hearts of numerous riders and punters, which is why bookies often place the best odds on thoroughbreds in their sportsbooks. Although common in horse racing, these animals are also used in show jumping, polo, dressage, and fox hunting, but their main application lies on the turf.
The Friesian Sporthorse
The Friesian Sporthorse is a particular form of horse breed that results from the cross-breeding of the Friesian horse with a thoroughbred or a warmblood. There is a long-standing dispute regarding the status of the species as a breed or a type of horse, but for simplicity purposes, we will consider them as a breed. There is also confusion surrounding the name, as the breed is sometimes spelt as Frisian, while Friesian is the more commonly spelt variant.
So Which Breed is the Best?
It is difficult to choose the best breed among the many different varieties of horses in the market, as the breeds mentioned above are only a very few of the most popular breeds of sport horses in the market. Each category has their own strengths and weaknesses, but ultimately, choose a breed depends on your specific requirements. If you are looking to place a bet on a horse, you should place your bets on a racehorse breed that stands a better chance of winning. If you are considering taking part in an equestrian event, you must choose the breed according to the category of competition. On the other hand, if you are looking to buy a horse for recreational purposes or for your family, you should buy a horse breed that has a great temperament to mingle with people of all age groups. Therefore, choosing a horse largely depends on individual preferences.